Democrat Dan Nieland challenging Zach Nunn in Iowa House district 30

“Our state has been hijacked by a group of people who have absolutely no interest in making the state better. If you’re not like them, they don’t care about you.” With those words, Dan Nieland officially launched his Democratic campaign for Iowa House district 30 this week.

Although rising Republican star Zach Nunn won re-election here comfortably last year, this seat encompassing much of eastern Polk County could become a competitive race in 2018.

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Medicaid abortion funding ban a bridge too far for Branstad administration

Opposing all government funding for abortion is settled dogma among Iowa Republican activists and elected officials. For two years in a row, Senate Democrats have blocked attempts to write new restrictions on Medicaid abortion coverage into the budget for the state Department of Human Services. Now DHS Director Chuck Palmer has signaled that taking control of the upper chamber may not give Republicans the power to restrict the choices of low-income women.

Palmer’s action puts Governor Terry Branstad in an awkward position, and a legislature completely under GOP control could create a political nightmare for Branstad, a proud “pro-lifer” throughout his career.

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First look at Democratic prospects for Iowa House gains

The redistricting process and several Republican retirements have created many pickup opportunities for Iowa House Democrats. The devastating 2010 election left them nowhere to go but up in the lower chamber, where Republicans currently enjoy a 60 to 40 majority. Relatively few sitting House Democrats represent vulnerable districts.

Speaking to activists at the Polk County Democratic convention on March 10, I heard lots of optimism about the House races. After the jump I’ve posted some early thoughts on the seats up for grabs.

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Weekend open thread: 2012 Iowa county conventions edition

The Iowa Democratic Party and Republican Party of Iowa held county conventions today. After the jump I’ve posted some notes on where Iowa politicians and candidates spent the day, and which Democrats addressed the Polk County Democratic convention. I left the convention during the lunch break, because delegates had finished most of the day’s business, including all work on the platform. However, the Polk County Republican convention was still going strong at this writing (around 5 pm).

This is an open thread; all topics welcome, especially county convention stories from today or years past.

Rick Santorum destroyed the competition in today’s Kansas caucuses, winning 52 percent of the vote to 21 percent for Mitt Romney, 14 percent for Newt Gingrich and 13 percent for Ron Paul. Romney swept the delegates at stake yesterday and today in the Guam and Northern Marianas Islands caucuses. Romney also won the Wyoming caucuses and most of the delegates from the Virgin Islands.

BONUS POTENTIAL FLAMEWAR TOPIC: Kevin Drum makes a counter-intuitive case: Return of the Jedi is the best Star Wars movie, especially if you take out the 10 minutes of horrific Ewok sequences. Thoughts?

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Anti-abortion groups MIA as Iowa welcomes Chinese VP

As Iowa’s top state officials welcomed Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping yesterday, activists gathered in Muscatine and Des Moines to protest China’s policy of repression in Tibet. Governor Terry Branstad praised Xi and his country, gushing about the potential to expand trade and friendship between Iowa and China.

Iowa’s “pro-life” movement was nowhere to be seen and had nothing to say about Xi’s visit.

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Who's who in the Iowa House for 2012

Although the 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats in the Iowa House haven’t changed since last year, I thought it was worth updating this post, because some committee assignments have changed, and House Democrats reshuffled their ranking members somewhat.

Majority and minority leadership teams are after the jump, along with all members of standing House committees. All 100 House districts are on the ballot every two years, so I’ve noted the new district numbers for state representatives seeking re-election in 2012, as well as which House members have said they will retire after this year’s legislative session.

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